Monday evening, torrential downpours in central Massachusetts triggered hazardous flash flooding, prompting officials in one city to evacuate residents and declare a state of emergency.
The National Weather Service reported that between 6 and 9 inches of rain fell on Monday in northeastern Worcester County, where a flash flood warning was in effect until 8 a.m. Tuesday.
A flash flood emergency was proclaimed in Leominster, approximately 40 miles northwest of Boston, and forecasters advised residents to seek higher ground immediately. Also, according to forecasters, adjacent communities such as Fitchburg, Lunenberg, and Sterling could experience flash flooding.
In an advisory, the weather service declared, “This is a very dangerous and life-threatening situation.” “Do not attempt travel unless you are evacuating a flood-prone area or under an evacuation order.”
On Monday evening, Leominster declared a state of emergency due to the deteriorating weather conditions.
“Due to flooding and potential damage to facilities, schools will be closed on Tuesday,” a notice on the city’s website stated, adding that an elementary school was serving as a shelter. The inundation also caused the rerouting of commuter rail lines.
At least one neighboring community, Hubbardston, sent a fire apparatus to Leominster to aid in the rescue of trapped individuals.
Leominster’s mayor, Dean Mazzarella, toured the city by vehicle on Monday evening and posted photos of damaged roads and homes on his Facebook page.
“All the streets are flooded, trust me,” he said in a Facebook Live video. Do not believe you are going to go sightseeing. He stated that at least one section of Leominster was evacuated due to a nearby reservoir.
On Tuesday morning, as he toured a parking lot behind a mall, Mazzarella showed that the water had reached as high as the door handles of some disabled vehicles.
“The water has receded,” he said, indicating the vehicles that required towing. He added that the car occupants “were either washed off the road or became disoriented.”
Tuesday, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency announced on social media that it would dispatch 3,000 sandbags and personnel to Leominster to assist at shelters for evacuees.
Gov. Maura Healey of Massachusetts stated early Tuesday morning on social media that the flooding in Leominster and adjacent communities was “catastrophic” and that she had spoken with Mazzarella and state agencies that had boat rescue and emergency response teams on the ground. She stated online that she would also be visiting the inundated areas to assess the damage.
At 1 a.m. on Tuesday, the weather service reported that torrential rainfall in southern New England had ceased.
However, according to the forecast, more rain was on the way, which could impede clearance and possibly rescue efforts as they continue on Tuesday.
A frontal system was expected to deliver drenching rains across portions of the region on Wednesday, following scattered showers Tuesday morning.